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5 things to know about irritable bowel syndrome

Published Date:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month is April! SIU Medicine has a team of experienced providers helping men, women and children of all ages manage this disease and maintain the highest quality of living possible.  

Five things to know about IBS: 

What is irritable bowel syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the intestines. It involves long-term or recurring issues within the digestive system. The most commonly affected organs include the large intestine, small intestine and colon. With IBS, people develop issues with how the intestines move, feel and function. Because the brain regulates the digestive system, IBS is also often called a brain-gut disorder. 

Like many other health conditions, the exact cause of IBS is not perfectly clear. Genetics, trauma, chronic stress, infection, your environment, and diet and lifestyle are all believed to play important roles if you develop IBS.

How common is IBS?

It's more common than you think! As many as 15 percent of adults around the world are living with IBS. While it seems to be more common in women, IBS affects people of all ages and backgrounds.

What are the top signs and symptoms of IBS?

If you have IBS, your signs and symptoms can vary depending on things like stress, food choices and time of day. For instance, symptoms are often worse right after eating. The most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Excessive and/or frequent bloating
  • Having to use the bathroom frequently and/or quickly
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • White or yellow mucus in the feces

While uncomfortable, signs and symptoms can be managed. 

How IBS sufferers manage the condition?

A person living with IBS has several options for managing their disease more effectively. These include:

  • Stress management techniques and coping skills
  • Exercise
  • A healthy diet (and avoiding foods known to trigger symptoms)
  • Eating smaller meals

Many people also found that adding alternative therapies to their lifestyle modification and medically directed plans of care can help manage their symptoms. These therapies may include acupuncture, yoga and mindful meditation. 

What are common treatments for IBS?

The first step in IBS treatment is proper IBS diagnosis. SIU Medicine providers analyze a variety of criteria and thorough conversations with patients to determine if a person has IBS. They may also run tests to rule out other conditions, such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease, which often seem similar to IBS. 

Once a diagnosis has been made, an individual's treatment plan can begin. In addition to the lifestyle modifications mentioned above, medical treatment may include:

  • Anti-diarrheal medications
  • Antispasmodic medications
  • Laxatives
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Probiotics and/or antibiotics
  • Counseling

If you have IBS, relief is possible! Contact SIU Medicine’s gastroenterology team at 217-454-8000 to make an appointment today. 

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